The move to re-designate a Mountain Peak currently named after an Indian killer

There is an effort to restore the original Lakota name to a mountain official named after a reputed Indian killer underway.

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The campaign began earlier this year by South Dakota Lakota Sioux tribes including the Crow Creek Sioux and Standing Rock. The tribe has proposed Hinhan Kaga, meaning Making of Owls in Lakota, as the new name.

Standing 7,242 feet tall on the sacred Black Hills, Hinhan Kaga is the tallest mountain in South Dakota, and the highest summit east of the Rocky Mountains.

General William S. Harney, who served under known Indian killer Andrew Jackson, was called “Woman Killer” by the Lakota Sioux due to his propensity to oversee massacres and atrocities. He led troops to attack the village of Little Thunder killing Sioux women and children in the 1855 Battle of Ash Hollow.

It was during this time that an army topographical engineer who served under Harney named the mountain in honor of his general.

The South Dakota State Board of Geographic Names voted unanimously on May 7th to change the name to Hinhan Kaga, but revoked their decision on June 29th after hearing feedback from South Dakotans.

Two of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s cabinet fought against it being renamed, using the argument that the proposed Lakota name is too difficult to pronounce, and that the new name would confuse visitors on account of Harney Peak being so familiar to people globally.

The Lakota People’s Law Project believes such arguments are not only patently absurd, but insensitive.

Linguistically speaking, Hinhan Kaga is similar to Harney Peak, both words have the same amount of syllables, letters, and even vowels. Any novice english speaker could easily pronounce both names. It is outrageous to favor non-existent pronunciation issues over the legacy of a person who killed innocent children and women.

The overriding consideration in respect to the name should be to properly honor the Indigenous inhabitants that Daugaard violently displaced in order to assume the mantle of power. The slaughtering of Indian men, women and children by Harney and roving band of scapegraces should be acknowledged and apologized for, not celebrated.

Even descendants from Harney’s family supported the name change.

While the South Dakota Board failed to respect the culture of the Native inhabitant of South Dakota, their recommendation will still go to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for the final decision.

The Lakota People’s Law Project supports the restoring the name to Hinhan Kaga, and urges supporters to email the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and exhort them to change the name.

Please email Lou Yost with the U.S. Board of Geographic Names at BGNEXEC@usgs.gov.

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11 thoughts on “The move to re-designate a Mountain Peak currently named after an Indian killer”

  1. I was raised in South Dakota but lived in Alaska for 13 years. There, we had the same situation. Mt McKinley, but everyone calls it Mt Denali. ……the indigenous name…….. DENALI…. There is no reason you can not change from Harney Peak to the name selected. You should have a 2nd name ready to go, because with egos…….you may have to be seen to ‘give’. But in the end, you will have a name of your selection. I cannot believe that they say it is hard to pronounce! (shaking my head)

  2. I climbed Harney Peak to honor visionary Black Elk. I do not object to a change of name, if necessary, but “Hinhan Kaga” sounds bad and offensive to my European ears. “Hinhan” sounds like a donkey braying, while “Kaga” reminds me of my father’s Catalan worst expletive “Kagade!” (“Sh..ty” ) – the name, to my ears, is too close to “sh..ty braying of a donley.”, not appropriate at all … I suggest, if need be, a referendum. I also suggest the Lakota people come up with another more decent name.

  3. I climbed Harney Peak to honor visionary Black Elk. I do not object to a change of name, if necessary, but “Hinhan Kaga” sounds bad and offensive to my European ears. “Hinhan” sounds like a donkey braying, while “Kaga” reminds me of my father’s Catalan worst expletive “Kagade!” (“Sh..ty” ) – the name, to my ears, is too close to “sh..ty braying of a donkey”, not appropriate at all … I suggest, if need be, a referendum. I also suggest the Lakota people come up with another more decent name.

  4. Black Elk used to vision quest at Harney Peak . Out of respect to the people who lost their lives it should be called Hinhan Kaga . who gave the whites the right to disrespect the First Nation People anyway? …Just asking

  5. Give the true native Americans the rights to change the name give them peace i think they. Have the right for this requests i am from florida with Seminole and Cherokee. Blood line with no voice give these people there demands they have the entitlement

  6. Following is the response I got back from my email. I’m confused by their saying “the Board has not received a proposal to change the peak’s name to Hinhan Kaga”. Can someone explain this further please?

    This acknowledges your support for the proposal that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has received, to change the name of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak. Our apologies for not responding before now. We have noted your comments and concerns in the case file. The Board has not received a proposal to change the peak’s name to Hinhan Kaga, and so the only application under consideration by the Board at this time is the one for Black Elk Peak.

    The recommendation of the South Dakota Board on Geographic Names, to retain the name Harney Peak, has been received by the U.S. Board and we are in the process of reviewing the large volume of documentation related to the case. The Board meets monthly and so as soon as we have completed our review and all input has been analyzed, we will present the proposal to the Board members for discussion and a decision. We would expect this will take a few more months.

    Thank you for your interest in this matter. Please let us know if you have any questions.

    Sincerely yours,
    Jennifer Runyon, research staff
    For Lou Yost, Executive Secretary
    U.S. Board on Geographic Names
    U.S. Geological Survey, Geographic Names Office

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